The Presidential Election Petition Tribunal, Wednesday commenced hearing in the petitions filed by the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, his party and three other political parties challenging the declaration of President Muhammadu Buhari as winner of 2019 presidential election.
The tribune led by Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa warned various counsel and parties in the various petitions to avoid discussing daily proceedings of the tribunal in the media and other public space, stating that the tribunal would not hesitate to wield the big stick against anyone found culpable in that regard, adding that the task of the tribunal is a serious national assignment and must be seen as such by all.
Bulkachuwa stressed that no matter how an election was conducted, there are bound to be complaints, hence the establishment of the tribunal to give speedy hearing on such complaints.
“This is not the first time this court has been empowered to hear and determine the outcome of a presidential election result since the return to democracy in Nigeria and the coming into effect of the 1999 Constitution.We did same in 1999, 2003, 2007 and 2011.
“Whenever petitions are filed against a person returned by the Independent National Electoral Commission as President, such a court is set up and it becomes a matter of public interest to the nation.
“The judiciary, being the arbiter, there are litigants, counsel, members of the press, and the public who are all stakeholders as the major participants.
“We, therefore, require the maximum cooperation of all the stakeholders, especially from the leaders of the Bar.
“We expect the proceeding to be conducted with decorum, a high sense of responsibility, dedication, and patriotism in our quest to arrive at just decisions in all the petitions before us.
“We are witnesses to what has been happening in high profile cases where such cases are being discussed and publicly decided prematurely in both the social and electronic media before the announcement of the verdict by the court.
She also disclosed that there are currently 786 petitions against the outcome of the 2019 general election, with Imo State having the highest number of 76 and 6 tribunals.
Responding, counsels in the matters pledged to play by the rules and give maximum cooperation to the panel.
Africa News24 understands that Levi Ozoukwu (SAN) is leading the legal team of Abubakar and the PDP, while Wole Olanipekun (SAN) and Lateef Fagbemi (SAN) are leading that of Buhari and APC respectively.
Justices Abdul Aboki, Samuel Osiji, Joseph Ikyegh and Peter Olabisi-Igeh are Other members of the presidential panel.
At the resumption of hearing today, the tribunal stated that the Proceedings would be on a daily basis after which it called the first case, the petition of the Hope Democratic Party (HDP) and his Presidential candidate, Chief Albert Owuru.
After the identification and regularization of processes filed in the HDP petition, the presiding judge fixed May 14 for pre-hearing of the petition.
On the other hand, Justice Bulkachuwa adjourned the matter in the case involving Abubakar and PDP against INEC, Buhari and APC, to May 15.
But in the case of the petition of Coalition for Change (C4C) and Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM), the tribunal declined to give a definite date for the hearing.
The tribunal cited the inability of the two petitioners to serve processes on Buhari and other respondents as its reason.
Similarly, the tribunal declined to hear an exparte application filed by the C4C, praying for substituted service on President Buhari and his Vice, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, following flaws in the motion.
The tribunal among others found that the exparte application filed by Obed Agu, was not competent in law because it was not signed, and the seal of the counsel was not fixed as required by law. Adding that there was no affidavit in support of the motion.
On seeing the rejection, the counsel withdrew the application and told the tribunal that a fresh case would be filed in its place.